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every company. Puffing is always suspicious, or superfluous; for real greatness no more needs a crier than the sun.
But it is more particularly in reference to religious matters. that this observation of the Apostle applies. We should not appear eager to display our gifts, nor should we vaunt of our religious experience. The manner in which some good but weak people talk of their pious conflicts, is, indeed, intolerably offensive. No matter who is present, pious or profane, scorner or believer, they parade all their seasons of despondency or of rapture; they tell you how they struggled with the great enemy of souls, and overcome him; how they wrestled with God, and had power to prevail: and that you may have as exalted an opinion of their humility, as of their enjoyment, they tell you, in the utter violation of all propriety, and almost of decency, what temptations they have encountered what hair-breadth escapes they have had from the commission of sin. Their motive is obvious: all this vaunting is to impress you with the idea that they are no ordinary Christians. Who can wonder that all religious conversation should have been branded with the epithets of whining cant and disgusting hypocrisy, when the injudicious and nauseating effusions of such talkers are regarded as a fair sample of it?
Too common is it to make the externals of religion the subject of vain-glorious boasting. How long can you be in the company of some Christians without hearing of their splendid place of worship, and its vast superiority over all the rest in the town? They establish the most insulting and degrading
comparisons between their minister and his brethren in the neighbourhood: none so eloquent, none so able, none so successful, as he. Notwithstanding your attachmeut to the pastor under whose ministry you sit with pleasure and profit, you are condemned to hear him dishonoured and degraded by one of these gasconading professors, who is as destitute of good manners as he is of good feeling.
And what a propensity is there in the present age, to display, and parade, and boasting, in reference to religious zeal! This is one of the temptations of the day in which we live, and a compliance with the temptation one of its vices. We have at length arrived at an era of the Christian church, when all the denominations into which it is divided, and all the congregations into which it is sub-divided, have their public religious institutions for the diffusion of divine truth. These institutions cannot be supported without property; and the property that is contributed for their support, must be matter of general notoriety. Like the tributary streams flowing into a great river, or like great rivers flowing into the sea, the contributions of associated congregations or communities, make up the general fund but, unlike the tributary streams which flow silently to form the mighty mass of waters, without requiring the ocean to publish to the universe the amount of each separate quota, the offerings of the different religious bodies, must be announced, to the uttermost farthing, before the world. This, perhaps, is necessary, that the contributors may know that their bounty has not been stopped and swallowed up in its course, but has reached its
destined receptacle and such is the weakness of our principles, and the strength of our imperfections, that this publicity, to a certain extent, seems necessary to stimulate our languid zeal. But it has given opportunity, and that opportunity has been eagerly embraced, to establish a system of unhallowed vanity between the different denominations and the various congregations into which the Christian church is divided. Who can have heard the speeches, read the reports, and witnessed the proceedings of many of our public meetings, convened for the support of missionary societies, without being grieved at the strange fire, and diseased offerings, which have been brought to the altar of the Lord? The object of the meeting was good, for it was the destruction of an idolatry as insulting to Jehovah as that which Jehu destroyed; but, like the king of Israel, hundreds of voices exclaimed in concert, "Come, see our zeal for the Lord!" The image of jealousy was lifted up in the temple of Jehovah; adulatory speakers chaunted its praises, in compliments upon the liberality of the worshippers; the multitude responded in shouts of applause to the tribute paid to their zeal; the praise of God was drowned amidst the praise of men; and the crowd dispersed, in love with the cause, it is true, but more for their own sakes, than for the sake of God, or of the heathen world.
Difficult indeed it is, with such hearts as ours, to do any thing entirely pure from all admixture of a sinful nature; but when we take pains to make our zeal known; when we employ effort to draw public attention upon us; when we wish and design to make ourselves talked of as a most extraordinary,
liberal, and active people; when we listen for praises, and are disappointed if they do not come in the measure we expected, and feast upon them if they are presented; when we look with envy on those who have outstripped us, and find no pleasure in any future efforts, because we cannot be first; when we look with jealousy on those who are approaching our level, and feel a new stimulus, not from a fresh perception of the excellence of the object, but from a fear that we shall be eclipsed in public estimation; when we talk of our fellow workers, or to them, with disdain of their efforts, and with arrogant ostentation of our own ;—then, indeed, have we employed the cause only as a pedestal on which to exalt ourselves; in pulling down one kind of idolatry, we have set up another, and rendered our contributions nothing better than a costly sacrifice to our own vanity. All this is a want of that Christian love which "vaunteth not itself, and is not puffed up."
True zeal is modest and retiring; it is not like the scentless sunflower, which spreads its gaudy petals to the light of heaven, and turns its face to the orb of day through his course, as if determined to be seen; but like the modest violet, it hides itself in the bank, and sends forth its fragrance from its deep retirement. It employs no trumpeter, it unfurls no banner, like the hypocrite; but while conferring the most substantial benefits, it would, if it were possible, be like the angels who, while ministering to the heirs of salvation, are unseen, and unknown, by the objects of their benevolent attention.
Observe the manner in which love operates to the destruction of this evil. Love, as we have already had frequent occasion to remark, is a desire to promote the happiness of those around us; but proud and vain persons tend materially to impair this happiness. They generally excite disgust, frequently offer insult, and sometimes inflict pain. Their object is to impress you with a degrading sense of inferiority, and thus to wound and mortify your feelings. Caring little for your peace, they pursue a career of contumely and scorn, dreaded by the weak and despised by the wise. It is impossible to be happy in their society; for if you oppose them, you are insulted-if you submit to them, you are degraded.
Love is essentially and unalterably attended with HUMILITY; humility is the garment with which it is clothed, its inseparable and invariable costume. By humility, we do not intend the servility which crouches, or the meanness that creeps, or the sycophancy which fawns; but a disposition to think lowly of our attainments, a tendency to dwell upon our defects, rather than our excellences, an apprehension of our inferiority compared with those around us, with what we ought to be, and what we might be. It is always attended with that modest deportment, which neither boasts of itself, nor seeks to depreciate any one: humility is the inward feeling of lowliness-modesty is the outward expression of it; humility leads a man to feel that he deserves little-modesty leads him to demand little.
"The ancient sages, amidst all their panegyrics